Thursday, 30 June 2011

German Protestant Kirchentag

The Elbe passing Dresden.Image via Wikipedia
Here is the first of two posts, reporting on the German Protestant Kirchentag, 1 - 5 June in Dresden.  Both articles are from the June edition of CTE News.  This should not be confused with the second ecumenical kirchentag, which took place last year.  Here's a third report about last year's.

For five days the streets, churches, conference centres and arts venues of Dresden were full of people wearing bright green (fairly-traded) cotton scarves, with the motto “da wird auch dein Herz sein” (…there will your heart be also). 120,000 Christians (20% of them Catholic) had gathered to experience a huge variety of talks, performances, acts of worship, celebrations and encounters. The bulky programme sent to all those who registered contained over 2000 different options. Navigating the programme required determination and a reasonable knowledge of German. Thankfully, the Kirchentag is well equipped to help international guests and an abbreviated version of the programme was produced in English, highlighting events which were in English or had English translation available. The International Visitors’ Centre provided a wonderful service, offering a place for visitors to rest as well as opportunities to make contact with (mostly young) people who were prepared to act as personal interpreters and go along to events that were otherwise in German.

The opening outdoor service, in three different venues, the main one attracting 60,000 people, was followed by an “evening of encounters”, where local churches set up stalls all around the city, offering refreshment, entertainment and conversation. At the end of the evening participants lined both banks of the River Elbe and lit candles, while the river itself became a “sea of lights”, with candles being swept down the river, while a specially-commissioned piece of music echoed round the city centre.

The delights of hearing world-renowned speakers, listening to music or experiencing performances were sometimes tempered by the frustrations of finding that venues were full up. At the same time, it would be fantastic if we saw signs on our streets saying “church full”! The experience of sharing communion with 120,000 people at the closing service creates a lasting impression too.

The German Kirchentag is at the same time inspiring, exciting and overwhelming. There is really nothing like it and it leaves participants buzzing with ideas. The next opportunity to participate (and it can’t be recommended highly enough) comes in from 1-5 May, 2013 in Hamburg. 
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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Parochial Church Council and LEPs

South elevation of Church of England parish ch...Image via Wikipedia
The need to register some Local Ecumenical Partnerships (LEPs) as charities continues to raise new issues about how churches relate to one another.  A couple of years ago Churches Together in England introduced a new model constitution and it is now the only permitted constitution for single congregation LEPs, whether or not they need to register as a charity.  This has, as a side effect, led to a radical simplification of the approval of LEPs.

Unfortunately, some new issues have emerged around the possibility of conflict of interest between ecumenical church councils (ECCs) (set up by the new style constitutions) and Church of England Parochial Church Councils (PCCs).  This is not a problem where the LEP is one church in a parish with more than one church.  The reason is that in such a parish the PCC cannot be the same body as the ECC.

Here is a note from the recent CCU Bulletin, which explains a but more about what is happening.  I'll make one further comment at the end which is very important if you are not an Anglican and trying to understand what this means!

Charity registration of single congregation LEPs is an ongoing task. As dioceses have engaged with this, challenging constitutional issues have emerged, which revolve around the relationship of the Church of England bodies in the parish to the LEP constituted as a charity. Work has been done on a Memorandum of Understanding between the PCC of a parish which participates in a single congregation LEP and the Ecumenical Church Council. The memorandum essentially:
  1. Recognises the need for the institutions and bodies of the Church of England in the parish to continue to exist and properly discharge their legal responsibilities.
  2. Sets out the responsibilities which the PCC continues to exercise under the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956, the Church of England’s Representation Rules, and the Canons of the Church of England.
  3. Expresses the PCC’s commitment to delegate those functions which it may lawfully delegate to the Trustees, and to consult with the Trustees before making decisions which have an impact on the SC-LEPs.
  4. Clarifies procedures when members of the PCC who are also Trustees have a conflict of loyalty, arising out of conflict of interest between the PCC and the Trustees.
The memorandum has been adopted by the Churches Group for Local Unity and is currently being road tested in Oxford Diocese.
I will publish a post with the actual memorandum once it becomes available.  In the meantime it is important to understand the PCC in a LEP is itself an ecumenical body.  In a Methodist Anglican LEP, for example, it is in theory possible for the PCC to be entirely Methodist.  I don't recommend this as an effective arrangement but it helps us understand this particular issue.  This is not about a group of Anglicans telling a LEP what to do.  It is about how the LEP is organised internally, to enable it to make legal decisions.

Related articles
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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Church of England and the United Reformed Church

The following is adapted from the latest Council for Christian Unity Bulletin, June 2011.

1662 – the restoration of the episcopate in the Church of England, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Act of Uniformity represented a great reversal after the Commonwealth for those who remained loyal to the Church of England as it was before the Civil War. But for 2000 members of the clergy who could not accept re-ordination and conformity in worship it meant expulsion from their livings – victims of the Great Ejection – and a rift in the English Church which has continued into the present. The United Reformed Church has its origins in the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches which were founded after the Great Ejection.

HEALING THE PAST – BUILDING THE FUTURE: The report of the Church of England – United Reformed Church Joint Study Group has recently been published. (The URC Co-Chair was Elizabeth Welch, and for the Church of England the Venerable Joy Tetley). It traces some of the history of the relationship and areas of agreement and continuing difference between our two Churches. 2012 sees the 350th Anniversary of the Great Ejection, and the 40th Anniversary of the formation of the United Reformed Church. The report proposes an event in 2012 which would enable the Church of England and the United Reformed Church to express publicly their penitence for the divisions of the past, their mutual recognition of each other in the present as churches belonging to the one Church of Jesus Christ and their commitment to working together to develop a closer relationship between them in the future.

The report has already been received by the United Reformed Church Mission Council, and will be debated at the General Synod on Monday 11th July.

One of the important tasks is to explore new ways of developing this relationship at local level, along with Methodist Colleagues under the Anglican Methodist Covenant.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Ecumenical Conference Report on the Methodist Church in Scotland

Scotland Clackmannanshire mapImage via Wikipedia
Here is the final extract from this year's ecumenical report to Methodist Conference about ecumenical activities in Scotland.

The Partnership between the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church in Scotland, and the United Reformed Church National Synod of Scotland (the EMU Partnership) 

Steady progress between the three denominations continues to be made. At a meeting on 14 March 2011 a work-plan, remits and terms of reference were developed. From 2012 it is proposed to operate the partnership with an “Oversight Group” and a “Contact and Implementation Group”. Standing “Work Groups” and timelimited “Task Groups” were also considered: the Work Groups being likely to include one on “Ministries” and one on “Learning/Training”.

Significant developments within the three denominations include the Methodist Church District Development Team Review; the Scottish Episcopal Church’s “Whole Church Mission and Ministries Policy Process; and the United Reformed Church’s “Advertising a Welcome” programme. The potential impact of these and other developments were discussed in the Partnership.

Perhaps the most significant progress is being made in areas of training of both ministers and laity. An example of cooperation with EMU partners is a series of three events under the banner “Shaping the Journey” at Dunblane Cathedral. 

The Church of Scotland Third Article Declaratory 

The Church of Scotland Third Article Declaratory sets out their undertaking to provide ministry across the whole of Scotland, which is one of the bases for their being a national Church. Their General Assembly last year reaffirmed this article. However, in practical terms with shortages in ministers it is proving nearly impossible to enact. A Commission to explore how they can fulfil the Third Article declaratory is in progress and reports to next year’s General Assembly. Along with several other Churches, Methodists have been invited to contribute to the work of the Commission. There may be ways of exploring how ministries may meaningfully be shared in a number of areas, building on the fact that Methodists are already assisting in the delivery of ministry in a number of Church of Scotland charges. 

Ecumenical Forum 

Building upon an ecumenical forum held last year, another was due to be held in May 2011. This would draw together Methodists and those from partner churches in Scotland who are interested in further developments of ecumenical relationships. The forum was to explore where the Methodist Church in Scotland is against objectives set out in the Swanwick Declaration in 1987; explore how its local ecumenical relationships are developing; consider from an ecumenical perspective the District Development Team Review of the Scotland District; and develop ideas on how it might continue to “journey together” with partner Churches. 

Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS): Ecumenical Reviews 

There are two aspects of ecumenical life in Scotland currently under review. Firstly, the National Sponsors Body is seeking to explore denominational perspectives of how effective local ecumenical partnerships are in a changing environment of decreasing resources and under the impact of new legislation (most notably charity law). The second is a broader review asking the Churches to reflect on and respond to the Swanwick Declaration to assess where we now are on our ecumenical journey together. Each denomination will be asked to speak to this at the ACTS residential meeting of members in October 2011.
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Friday, 24 June 2011

Wales Ecumenical Report to Methodist Conference

Percentages of Welsh speakers in the principal...Image via Wikipedia
The report about ecumenism in Wales, is part of the Ecumenical Report to Methodist Conference 2011.  It is rather long but raises a number of interesting points, which may have applications elsewhere.  The response of Y Cyngor to the Commission of Covenanted Churches is particularly interesting in light of the proposals elsewhere in the ecumenical report about shared ministry.

There is one resolution specific to the Wales report:
The Conference adopts the recommendation of Y Cyngor concerning the Commission of Covenanted Churches in Wales and directs that on behalf of the Conference the Methodist Church in Wales continue to support the work of the Commission on those terms for a further period of five years from 2011.

The Commission of Covenanted Churches in Wales 

The Covenant was established in 1975 with the goal of establishing ‘visible unity’ between the Church in Wales, the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and those Baptist Churches willing to accept the Covenant. The Commission was established in 1976 to expedite the achievement of the Covenant’s aim.

The Trefeca Declaration of 2005 reaffirmed the member churches’ commitment to the Covenant and it was agreed to fund the Commission for a period of six years until 2011. The Commission has now asked that member churches renew their commitment to support its work for a further five years.

The Commission has provisionally adopted the following post-2011 agenda:
  • to draw up a document jointly to be agreed by all five member denominations stating clearly what mode of governance would be acceptable to them all;
  • to draw up a document jointly to be agreed by all five member denominations stating clearly what model of pastoral oversight or episcope would be acceptable to them all;
  • to work towards a Church of Wales that shares one faith, one structure, one ministry and one governance but that honours and celebrates different theological emphases and worship traditions;
  • to arrange a triennial delegated Assembly of Covenanted Churches in Wales, beginning in 2012, to worship together, consider reports from the Commission and matters brought by member churches, and to report back to member churches;
  • to set up Advocates consisting of at least one senior leader of each member denomination with the full authority of their denomination to identify areas where a Local Ecumenical Partnership might be established and to engage in conversations with congregations in those areas to encourage the setting up of such a partnership;
  • to consider whether there are specific communities which could act as experimental models for ecumenical ministerial deployment;
  • to revise the Commission’s Eucharistic rite, to provide a shared confirmation rite for use within Local Ecumenical Partnerships and to consider shared ordination services, where possible;
  • to explore how advocacy of the Covenant might be taken forward.
Response of Y Cyngor to the proposals of the Commission of Covenanted Churches 

Further to the Commission’s request in April 2010 that member churches renew their commitment to support its work for a further five years, Y Cyngor [the leadership and co-ordinating team for Yr Eglwys Fethodistaidd yng Nghymru/The Methodist Church in Wales], having consulted with the Wales Synod and Synod Cymru, is pleased to recommend that the Methodist Church in Wales continue to support the work of the Commission for a further period of five years from 2011, with this to be reviewed again in 2016.

However, the Commission’s request was accompanied by an eight point programme of work to be undertaken over the next five years, and to this Y Cyngor wished to make some suggestions of its own. When in December 2009, the Commission met with Church leaders to ask whether they were still committed to the Covenant, the response on behalf of the Methodist Church in Wales was that:
  • we remained committed to the Trefeca Declaration but recognised that “more work needs to be done in terms of what that visible unity means and how we understand it to accord with what Christ wills for our time and place”;
  • we had been “disappointed by the failure of recent proposals from the Commission” and so “do not consider that the time is right for further structural schemes to be explored”;
  • we considered that “what is most needed at this time are two things; first a deepening of the ecumenical relationships which already exist… and second a further exploration of what is possible under existing agreements… before any new schemes are introduced”.
The concern of Y Cyngor is that the Agenda proposed by the Commission, in particular the first three points, appears too focused on matters concerning structural schemes, and not enough on deepening existing relationships and exploring what is possible under existing agreements. In particular it considers that its focus is too much on ordained ministry and not enough on the opportunities afforded by lay and mission-shaped ministry to which Covenant partners are also committed. It also considers that more work needs to be done to explore what ‘visible unity’ might mean for this new century. Accordingly, Y Cyngor would want to see the future Agenda of the Commission adjusted to address these issues and so to focus on work which reflects the practical mission priorities in the areas where we seek to serve.

Given the connexional nature of the Methodist Church, Y Cyngor submits to the Conference for confirmation of its recommendation that the Methodist Church in Wales continue to support the work of the Commission for a further period of five years from 2011, with this to be reviewed again in 2016. A resolution to that effect can be found below.

Other ecumenical engagement

Synod Cymru exercises the vast majority of its ministry in Welsh. Chapel culture is very strong within the Welsh speaking communities of Wales and so it is more natural for Welsh speaking Methodist congregations to form partnerships with other local Welsh speaking congregations. Such local ecumenical partnerships (which may or may not be formal arrangements) are most common with the Presbyterian Church of Wales and with chapels belonging to the Union of Welsh Independent Churches (UWI). [The latter is an informal grouping and chapels which are members of the Union of Welsh Independent Churches retain their autonomy – the Union having no oversight or authority over them.] Amongst these partnerships are the Powys Area which is a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) involving ten Methodist churches, and Llanrhaeadr is an LEP involving nine Methodist Churches: both areas have Area Leaders who are ministers of other Churches who have been recognised and regarded as admitted into Full Connexion by the Conference.

So far as Wales Synod is concerned, there are ecumenical partnerships in 12 Circuits. The main partners are the United Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church of Wales, Baptist churches and churches belonging to the Union of Welsh Independent Churches. There is one circuit partnership involving the Church in Wales. However the Church in Wales is involved with the Wales Synod in a significant number of partnerships in Higher Education, Industrial and Workplace, Prison and other Chaplaincies, often in conjunction with other Churches. The Wales Synod is also a partner of the Church in Wales in St Michael’s College, Llandaff, which involves ministerial, lay and Mission Shaped Ministry training.

Challenges and difficulties facing ecumenical co-operation

Strategic deployment of ministry. The difficulty is that the Churches all use different processes and timing patterns in deploying ministry which can lead to frustration between partners, particularly when there is pressure to reduce staff levels, and where there is a different approach to the length and timing of interregnums. From a Methodist perspective this has been a particular concern in United Areas where we share ministry with the URC and a significant factor in the demise of the Pembrokeshire United Area.

More limited access to funding to support strategic deployment. The restructuring of the Connexional Team has led to a reassessment of what are District and what are connexional priorities and what grant resources are available to support them. This has resulted in Districts (in this case the Wales and Cymru Synods) receiving more resources in terms of officers and funds in some areas, whilst having to fund what previously were held to be connexional priorities in others, with a consequent reduction in the total financial resources available for those latter areas (eg it is now the Wales Synod supporting the HE chaplaincy at Glamorgan and not the Connexion).

Changing assessment of key strategic issues. Faced with a reduced level of funding, the Methodist Church in Wales has to make difficult decisions as to where it can continue to support ecumenical ministry schemes. In some cases this means that given changed circumstances, it can no longer afford to provide resources for some areas of work in the way it once did.

Different language/cultural settings require different partners. The language and cultural geography of Wales means that Methodism may look to different partners in different places. For example, the Wales Synod may look more naturally to the Church in Wales or the URC, whilst Synod Cymru may look to the PCW or UWI as partners. However, in responding to issues across Wales, we need to remain coherent as a denomination.

Potential areas of new ecumenical work

The key is to find common areas of mission priority. These may include:
  • areas where significant new housing development is planned;
  • areas where chaplaincy work is developing;
  • sharing in new approaches to training for ministry for both lay and ordained [eg Mission Shaped Ministry programmes (with the Church in Wales and the United Reformed Church) or cooperating where existing areas of training are under review to provide ecumenical training schemes in future (eg Reader/ Local Preacher training)];
  • sharing in other ecumenical mission projects [eg ‘Back to Church Sunday’ or ‘Street Pastors’].
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Thursday, 23 June 2011

ARC Sunday

A horse in a field of buttercups in the CotswoldsImage via Wikipedia
I'll return to Methodist Conference tomorrow.   This is notice of material for this coming Sunday.  From the June edition of CTE News:

Sunday 26th June 2011 is a day in the year when the Arthur Rank Centre leads the Christian community in sharing and praying for the people who live, work and worship in the countryside. ARC, the national church’s rural resources centre, is inviting congregations to look out from their own lives and concerns to the bigger issues that surround us in the countryside. It has made special worship materials available on its website to mark the day.

Director of the Centre Revd Dr Gordon Gatward said: ‘We want to encourage Christians to reach out to the wider rural community in prayer and in action on Sunday 26th June, particularly to those who are suffering hardship or distress, and remember that the Arthur Rank Centre is here to help in that task.’

In particular the ARC is concerned for some 900,000 households who are living on or below the poverty threshold in rural England, and those who feel isolated and alone in places where demographic change, the lack of affordable housing and the withdrawal of services are all taking their toll on communities. In farming many are going through difficult times. For some, things are improving but for others problems of increased transport costs, lack of broadband access, lack of finance and the continued scourge of Bovine TB continue to cause hardship and distress. The ARC aims to support and help these people and their families.

Specially written readings and prayers for ARC Sunday, 26th June 2011, can be downloaded from the ARC website now, or please call 02476 853060 for a pack.

CTE News' lead article this month is by Gordon Gatwood, who reviews changes in rural communities on the tenth anniversary since Foot and Mouth
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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Methodist URC Joint Resolution Progress Report

This is the first of a series of excerpts from the Methodist Conference 2011 Ecumenical Report.  This first excerpt covers material relating to relations between the Methodist and United Reformed Churches.

Further report on progress in response to the Joint Resolution of the Methodist Conference and the United Reformed Church Assembly in 2008

1.1 Background to the Joint Resolution

In 2008, the URC Assembly and Methodist Conference approved a joint resolution which had been proposed by the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District of the Methodist Church and the West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church. Full details of the resolution can be found on the Methodist Church website [2008 Resolution 62/2]. Its main points are as follows:
  • to explore further joint working for the sake of shared mission;
  • a structure that minimises ecumenical meetings but facilitates diversity;
  • exploration of joint structures at synod/district level;
  • effective use of resources.
1.2 Joint Meeting of the United Reformed Church Mission Council and the Methodist Council

A report on this first joint meeting can be found in the report of the Methodist Council elsewhere in this Agenda.

This report is buried in the Methodist Council report and so it is reproduced here in full.  These links are to reports of the joint councils meeting, Better Together, on this blog.

One major development in the life and work of the Council this year was the first joint meeting of the Methodist Council and the United Reformed Church Mission Council. For many years there has been, and continues to be, a Methodist-United Reformed Church Liaison Committee. In 2008 the Methodist Conference and the URC Assembly both adopted resolutions committing themselves to closer working together. Following that a Strategic Oversight Group of a few senior staff and officers of both Churches was established. That in turn led to the proposal that the two Councils should meet together.

The joint meeting took place at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, in October 2010. The normal one day meeting of the Methodist Council was lengthened to a 48 hour meeting to make this possible. During the time the two Councils met separately for a number of sessions to conduct their own business and complete their own formalities. Interspersed among these were nine sessions where the two Councils met together. These included an opening session exploring the history, context and characteristics of the two Churches within a framework of worship; a Bible Study on the need to welcome all people whatever their status into the embrace of the Church; and discussion groups on the key challenges facing Churches both locally and denominationally. There was a presentation on “Fresh Expressions” by Bishop Graham Cray, the Bishop responsible for that work in the Church of England, a work in which the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church are partners. The General Secretaries of the two Churches gave an outline of the pressing issues and current initiatives in both Churches, which led to the recognition of how many themes were common to both. There was then a series of workshops developed in response to requests from the discussion groups.

The final joint plenary sessions then received presentations and engaged in discussions of a number of issues which led in turn to the making of some shared decisions. The report of a joint Church Buildings Think Tank led to a call for the Strategic Oversight Group to look at the possibility of forming a follow-on group to facilitate the next stage of this work. A document on work with children and young people led to the staff teams being directed to bring plans for joint working to future meetings of the Councils. A paper on Poverty in Britain 2010 led to a commitment to challenge the causes of poverty and inequality inherent in our society. A report on the Review of the Methodist/United Reformed Church National Rural Officer Post led to a commitment to continue the joint post and accept the recommendations made in the report.

During the joint meeting members of the Methodist Council were introduced to the United Reformed Church’s way of making decisions by consensus, and this was tried in a number of cases. In general, the making of decisions prompted interesting reflection. The two Councils do not have exactly equivalent responsibilities, powers or ways of working. In effect the two Councils made separate but parallel decisions in each other’s presence. This will need further attention in any follow-up event. Feedback from the Councils of both Churches has suggested that the joint meeting was worthwhile and worth doing again. A second joint meeting is therefore being planned for autumn 2012.

1.3 Other developments

A senior officer of the Methodist Conference now attends the United Reformed Church Mission Council as a participant observer, and a senior officer of the United Reformed Church attends the Methodist Council in a similar capacity. The Strategic Oversight Group continues to meet regularly.  Its membership is currently: from the United Reformed Church, the General Secretary, the Deputy General Secretary and the Treasurer; and from the Methodist Church, the General Secretary, the Secretary for Team Operations and the Secretary for External Relationships [nb the offices of Treasurer of the United Reformed Church and Secretary for Team Operations in the Methodist Church are currently held by the same person]. Conversations are beginning about how the Methodist-United Reformed Church Liaison Committee’s work can interact productively with that of the Methodist-Anglican Panel for Unity in Mission.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Moving Forward in Covenant

Bishops of NovgorodImage via Wikipedia
Yesterday I posted about the main proposals in the Joint Implementation Commission 2 (JIC2) report, Moving Forward in Covenant.  In this post I will review the remaining material in the report, to be debated at Methodist Conference 2011

Part 1 of the report reviews the history of the covenant and then, in paragraphs 17 - 30, summarises some of the developments over the first couple of years of JIC2.  One of the major developments has been  the inclusion of Welsh and Scottish Methodists, as well as representatives from the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales, on JIC2.  This section also covers the development of relations between all these churches and the United Reformed Church (para 21).

These paragraphs go on to mention other examples of collaboration, for example:
A major development has been joint work on the diaconate. This included a major consultation from 21 - 23 April 2010. There is a full report from the consultation available for those who are interested.

The remainder of the report is devoted to what JIC2 describes as 'causes for concern'.  These include 'patchy' implementation and the reasons for this are elaborated in paragraph 34.  The reasons relate to oversight (episcope), episcopacy, as well as restructuring and budgetary retrenchment in both churches.  Also, as mission has become the overall priority, 'the necessary link between unity and mission ... needs to be grasped afresh'.

The report reviews progress with the move towards women bishops in the Church of England and towards the historic episcopate in the Methodist Church.  Both moves are essential for interchangeability of ministry and have been slower than originally anticipated.  The report reviews progress with both these and concludes, in paragraph 52, that 'while the Church of England's process regarding female bishops continues and while there is no clear outcome within the Methodist Church with regard to episcopacy, there is inevitably a sense of hiatus in the structural implementation of the covenant.'
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Monday, 20 June 2011

A Major Development in Shared Ministry

Perhaps the most significant ecumenical initiative at this year's Methodist Conference is to be found in part 2 of the JIC2 report Moving Forward in Covenant.  In this post I will outline the proposals.  If this interests you I strongly recommend you read the report to get the full picture.

The resolution 60/03 Conference will be asked to consider is as follows:
The Conference receives the Interim Report of the Joint Implementation Commission entitled “Moving Forward in Covenant”.

This means the necessary legislation, mentioned in the report, will take place at a future Conference, presumably after members of the Methodist Church have had time to reflect on the proposals.

There are two main proposals in the report at paragraphs 61 and 65.  They read as follows:

A Covenant Partnership in an Extended Area would be made by the bishop of the diocese and the appropriate authority of the Methodist Church, establishing a local ecumenical partnership within the whole, or part of the area of the diocese and the appropriate Methodist circuits (and the district(s) of which they are part). This would enable the bishop to authorise shared ministry within the provisions of Canon B 44.4. In Methodist terms, it would also allow for shared ministry, by identifying the places where Anglican priests and deacons can be appointed by the Conference to serve the Methodist Church as associate presbyters or deacons under Standing Order 733A.

Approval has also been given to standardised procedures and proformas for Church of England parishes and Methodist churches to establish local covenant partnerships within the provisions of Canon B 44. The bishop can take the initiative and approve the use of these standardised procedures in his diocese, and encourage parishes to take up the initiative locally.

The section on covenanted partnerships in extended areas describes how the provisions of Canon B44 can be extended to cover whole dioceses or parts of dioceses.  This is coupled with the Methodist Church extending its provisions for associate ministers to allow appropriately qualified people to become associate Superintendents or Chairs of Districts.

Whilst this would not result in interchangeability of ministry, it would significantly simplify the co-ordination of shared ministry across a large area.  There would be no need, for example, for every Anglican priest assigned to work with Methodists to apply for associate minister status.  The extended area arrangement would be an agreement between churches and so the role of ministers assigned by either denomination to the extended area would automatically be recognised.

In this post I've tried to summarise the main points in the proposal.  I will follow this proposal over the current months, highlighting developments as they happen.  This will be a highly significant development and comments with your thoughts would be welcome and helpful.  There are likely to be questions and issues specific to certain areas and I would be happy to respond to them.
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Friday, 17 June 2011

Methodist Conference 2011

Volume 3 of the agenda for this year's Methodist Conference was published online yesterday and so today I will summarise the headings from the various papers.  Next week I will prepare posts based on the issues covered in the conference reports.  You can follow the links and read them today or wait for them to come up on the blog next week.

The Ecumenical Report to Conference covers the following issues:
  • Further report on progress in response to the Joint Resolution of the Methodist Conference and the United Reformed Church Assembly in 2008
  • The Methodist Church in Wales, including the Commission of Covenanted Churches in Wales and Y Cyngor's response to it
  • The Methodist Church in Scotland including progress with the EMU Partnership, the Church of Scotland Third Article Declaratory and ACTS' ecumenical reviews
  • The Joint Implementation Commission
The latter is primarily concerned with JIC2's interim report, Moving Forward in Covenant.  Here are the main chapter headings:
  • How far have we travelled in Covenant?  This section covers a number of issues including the diaconate, episcopacy and Presidency.
  • A Major Development in Shared Ministry.  This includes covenant partnerships in extended areas.
As far as I can tell there are no relevant memorials this year.  There are a few other relevant reports and I will provide links to these as I cover the issues in detail.  Leave a comment if you spot anything in the papers I might have missed.
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Thursday, 16 June 2011

In Memory of Those Who Have Died at the Borders of the EU

Refugee boats in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. Sculpture by Kalliopi Lemos
20 - 26 June 2011 is Refugee Week and this site offers a large amount of information backed by an impressive group of 12 refugee agencies.  Whilst the material on this site might be used to inform liturgies and prayer gropups during the week, it dioes not include, as far as I can see, any material designed for use in Christian worship.

I have however found some on the Conference of European Churches website.  Simply click on this link to download a resource guide, Day of intercession in memory of those who have died at the borders of the EU .  This has been put together by The Commissioner for migration and integration of the Evangelical.Church in Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Oberlausitz, German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum, EKD Church Office, CCME - Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe, German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum.  Some of these sites are in German but the link is to an English version of the report.

Here are some extracts from the introduction to the paper:

In July 2009 the Conference of European Churches declared in Lyon: “As churches in Europe we commit ourselves: to remember those who have died on their journey to find a dignified life in Europe, through an annual day of prayer.” Churches and human rights groups in several European countries will commemorate together on the same day, 26 June 2011, the lethal consequences of the sealing off of the external borders of the EU. Such sealing off takes place through highly perfected technical border protection, through the displacement of border protection measures to neighbouring and transit states of the EU, and through legal agreements with neighbouring and transit states on refugee return, even if this violates human rights.

Churches will remember in prayer the nameless dead who frequently disappear without trace in the sea or in the desert. Their lament, which went unheard by human beings, will be brought before God. What takes place at the borders - far from public scrutiny and control – will be brought to public awareness. Background reports will provide information about the situation of human rights at the borders. Politicians will be reminded of their responsibility to take at long last effective measures to protect human beings and human rights.

The paper includes:
  • Ideas for worship
  • Proposal for a prayer of intercession for those who have died at the borders of the European Union
  • Proposal for a prayer of intercession for those who assist
  • Instead of a sermon: personal testimonies
  • What we can do
  • A summary for newsletters
  • Further information and resources

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle

If you cast your eyes to the column on the right hand side of this blog and scroll down you will find the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Prayer Cycle.  This changes weekly and cycles around the world once a year.  It is linked to a WCC publication In God's Hands: The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle

The full cycle is laid out on the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle page of the WCC website.  They say:

At the very heart of the ecumenical movement is the reality of prayer. Jesus prayed that we may all be one, united in God in the mystery of the Trinity. That is the basis and the goal of our search for unity.

The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle enables us to journey in prayer through every region of the world and through every week of the year affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing diverse problems and sharing diverse gifts. Lord, hear our prayer ...

It is possible to install the cycle into your own blog, website or Facebook page.  Instructions can be found on the WCC website.  It is also possible to submit your own prayers for use in the prayer cycle.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Churches’ Attitude to the Travelling Community in Scotland

Travelling north. Travelling on A 6177Image via Wikipedia
The following article, Sorry is the Hardest Word, is from the Action for Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) website.  The full report is also on the website.

On Monday May 23rd, the day before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland received the ecumenically prepared Report on the Churches’ Attitudes to Travelling People, Jess Smith, an author and herself a Scottish Gypsy Traveller, presented her monologue “Sorry is the Hardest Word” at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh’s High Street.

An audience of more than fifty people, including several Assembly Commissioners, came to hear Jess speak of the injustices and cruelties which had been inflicted by Scottish society on the Travelling Community over the centuries.

However, the evening began in an unexpected way. A Maori chant was performed by a visitor from New Zealand who had come to Scotland especially to express her people’s fellow feeling for the Scottish Gypsy Travellers and to meet with Jess.

While pulling no punches about the pain inflicted on the Travelling Community, Jess captured her audience’s attention with humour and pathos as she told her tale of what led her to a confrontational encounter with a prominent Scottish politician and to her day in court.

After her monologue Jess was joined on stage by the Rev. Tilly Wilson, also a Traveller, for a period of open discussion. As members of the audience raised points and expressed their support, Jess and Tilly were able to provide vivid examples from their own experiences of the treatment meted out to Travellers.
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Monday, 13 June 2011

Creation Time 2011

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) have produced some resources for the Harvest Festival season, which they believe is between 1 September and 4 October.

Creation Time 2011, seeks to 'encourage and assist churches, groups and individuals to observe a Time for Creation each year between 1 September and 4 October for the protection of creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles, focus this year on Food in God's creation. May God make us more aware of his generosity and our responsibilities as we pray for our daily bread.'

The resources this year have the title 'Our Daily Bread - Food in God's Creation' and you can download a flyer to publicise them (more details on the site).  The resources themselves are free from the CTBI site although they ask for a donation.  The resources are currently being added.  So far, they include:

  • Sermon notes based on the Lectionary readings for the 5 Sundays - including Bishop David Atkinson (Celebration: Food and Community), Revd Dr Kathy Galloway, Head of Christian Aid Scotland (Our Daily Bread) and Dr Michael S Northcott (The Climate of Communion)
  • Other sermon outlines
  • Prayers of intercession / bidding prayers for a Sunday liturgy
  • Service outline for a mid-week / ecumenical event, with accompanying PowerPoint
  • Group study notes
  • New harvest festival ideas
  • Background information on food and agriculture
  • A range of other liturgical material
There are Irish and Welsh translations of some of these resources.
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Friday, 10 June 2011

International Ecumenical Peace Convocation

The World Council of Churches International Ecumenical Peace Convocation took place in Kingston, Jamaica a few weeks ago, 17 - 25 May 2011.  I flagged this meeting up back in January.

Here's some background material:

The World Council of Churches' 9th Assembly (Porto Alegre, Brazil, February 2006) decided that "the conclusion of Decade to Overcome Violence be marked by an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC)". The Assembly also called for "a process of wide consultation to be undertaken toward developing an ecumenical declaration on "just peace". This consultative process leading up to the IEPC allows for broad participation with many entry points, and covers a wide spectrum of thematic and methodological approaches.

The IEPC will bring together a wide spectrum of people witnessing to the peace of God as a gift and responsibility of the entire human family. It seeks to strengthen the church's position on peace, provide opportunities for networking and deepening our common commitment to the processes of reconciliation and just peace.

So, how did it go?  Steve Hucklesby from the British Methodist Connexional Team was present and reported the 'The Convocation took place at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica with an ancient conduit dating back to the time of sugar plantations when the site would have been populated by captured slaves. The conference was addressed by Canon Paul Oestreicher and a lot was learnt during the workshops on abuse of women and people facing challenging situations around the world. Prof John Hull, Barbara Glasson and Ruth Hilton were facilitators at the workshops.'  You can read more from Steve on his blog.

The Convocation has published a closing message, which is more than a text:

The IEPC message captures only part of a truly historic event, said the Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, as he received the IEPC message on behalf of the WCC.   “You take with you much more than a text; you take with you a profound ecumenical experience,” he said. “The complexity of the issues we have addressed will certainly require further work, reflection and action.”

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Faith in Affordable Housing

Affordable housing, Damson Way, Suckley 2008Image via Wikipedia
The Faith in Affordable Housing project gives information and support to assist churches in providing affordable housing. The project covers both urban and rural areas of England and is managed by Housing Justice, the national voice of Christian action in the field of housing and homelessness. It works with communities and churches of different Christian denominations; bridging the gap between churches, development partners and individual communities.

(NB At the time of writing there seems to be a problem on their website.   If you get 'Page not found', click on 'Home' to get to the site.  I haven't been able to provide a link to the July conference so far, it is under 'Events' on the site.)

The aim of the project is to help Christian churches to redevelop underused buildings and land for the provision of affordable housing. They promote partial church/site redevelopment into affordable housing, in order to release capital or income to transform the remaining space for continued ministry and mission, or to create community use in which the church has an ongoing role. They also help churches which are considering leasing unused land. Faith in Affordable Housing is building a network of housing associations, related organisations and individual professionals to assist churches and linking in with funding bodies that may be able to help with the development of feasibility studies.

Faith in Affordable Housing is organising a conference in July. 
Faith in Affordable Housing Conference
Using church land & property for affordable housing
7 July 2011 – 10 a.m. until 3.15 p.m.
Norwich Cathedral, The Hostry

The day comprises talks and workshops on topics such as best practice, planning and development, managing property portfolios, government policy, community engagement and community land trusts. These will be delivered by a range of national, regional and local organisations and the event will be opened by The Rt Revd Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich. The main objective of the conference is to support churches to find affordable housing solutions that are beneficial to them both financially and in terms of ministry. The conference will offer plenty of time for delegates to network and will provide space for organisations to publicise their work.
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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Spirit of Life

Christian Bible, rosary, and crucifix.Image via Wikipedia
The Church of England's Manchester Diocese has developed a new website, The Spirit of Life, exploring predominantly practical approaches to spirituality.  It appears to feature a variety of approaches from a number of traditions.  This might provide further resources for Churches Together groups following up Tuesday's post about the sharing of spiritual treasures.  Here's a an excerpt from their home page:

The Spirit of Life website provides a space to sample and engage the richness of undiscovered heritage that exists in Christianity.

From the depth of space felt on Retreat, to the freedom of self-discovery experienced in Spiritual Companionship, welcome to a place where you might find what you’ve been looking for all this time.

From finding a new direction in life within the strength of a Religious Order or Community, to following in the footsteps of those who have gone before us on Pilgrimage, The Spirit of Life invites you to experience Life.
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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Gifts from the Treasure Trove

Treasure chest up closeImage by eszter via Flickr
Churches Together in England has published a new leaflet for local Churches Together groups. Gifts from the Treasure Trove enables reflection on the gifts we receive from others. Its sister leaflet, Sharing our Spiritual Treasures, sits alongside it, and contains notes for group leaders for both leaflets.

Gifts from the Treasure Trove has been written as a result of the work done on receptive ecumenism. Both leaflets are available as free downloads from CTE's website.

These leaflets each outline a session which might be used by Churches Together groups or other small groups meeting to share and reflect upon their ecumenical experience.  The older leaflet focuses upon sharing an object, verse or memory that has been significant in the participants ecumenical journeys.  The new leaflet suggests a similar process based upon sharing something from another tradition that has illuminated each person's spiritual journey. 

There is enough material here for at least two meetings and some suggestions for further meetings.
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